2018 Update: This post has been updated by a trained medical professional.
Having a foot spa is a relaxing way to end a stressful day. But is it safe if you have diabetes? Diabetics are known to have complications, especially foot problems.
Can a diabetic use a foot spa?
Yes, a diabetic can use a foot spa but with a lot of precautions. If done correctly, having a foot spa is safe for diabetics. But how?
Understanding the Diabetic Feet Problem
First, you need to understand the problem with having a diabetic feet. Complications stem out from two problems – diabetic neuropathy and poor blood circulation.
Diabetic neuropathy is a kind of nerve damage that is unique among diabetics. High blood sugar levels in the blood can damage nerves especially in the legs and feet. This leads to pain, tingling sensation and numbness.
People suffering from diabetic neuropathy are at high risk for injuries. Because of tingling, numbness and loss of sensation, they don’t immediately feel minor cuts or burns in their legs and feet. This can lead to more serious complications caused by poor blood circulation.
Poor blood circulation
High blood sugar makes the blood consistency more viscous. This leads to poor blood circulation especially in the lower extremities.
Poor blood circulation delays wound healing. When blood becomes more viscous, wounds in distant parts of the body are not adequately supplied with healthy oxygenated blood. The tissues around the wound can die because of the lack of blood supply. The wound becomes black and gangrenous.
High blood sugar levels also increase the risk of wound infection. The “sweet” and thick consistency of the blood is ideal for bacterial growth. With poor circulation, the body also has weaker immunity to fight infections.
How to Make Foot Spas Safe for Diabetics
Being diabetic shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a foot spa after a tiring day.
Here are ways how to make it extra safe:
- Regulate water temperature carefully. Use the inner part of your forearm in feeling how hot the water is. The inner part of your forearm near the elbow is more sensitive to water temperature. Your feet might not feel that the water is too hot because of diabetic neuropathy. To be safer, you can also ask another person to help regulate your foot spa’s water temperature.
- Don’t soak your feet for too long. You should only soak for a maximum of 20 minutes or less. Soaking for too long makes the feet drier which can cause cracks and skin breakdowns. Sloughs can also fall off loose and cause tiny breaks in your skin.
- Use mild products for your foot soak. You can still use herbs for the soak but go easy with Epsom salt and baking soda. Use half the recommended amount for your foot spa unit. Don’t use artificial chemicals like aroma scents as they can cause irritation.
- Don’t use foot scrubs or pumice stones. Some people like to scrub away the sloughs and calluses in their feet using foot scrubs or pumice stones. If you are diabetic, this is not recommended. Foot scrubs and pumice stones make the skin thinner and rawer. They can cause skin inflammation and breakdowns.
- Always moisturize after the foot spa. Foot spas make the skin dry so don’t forget to moisturize after. Massage your feet with a lotion of your choice. Apply a thin amount between your toes and make sure the lotion have been absorbed by the skin well before wearing socks.
- Make sure you are regularly caring for your feet.
Watch this foot care video to learn more about proper foot care:
Je Abarra is a registered nurse who has been practicing in the field of medicine since 2010. Her years-long nursing career has helped her write insightful articles based on real experience and thoughtful observation. She is currently based in Canada.